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Ganja market to take shape starting March

Published:Friday | February 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

Industry Minister Anthony Hylton has signalled to prospective ganja investors that interim regulations to police the industry should be in place by March.

It would pave the way for commercial ganja and allow persons in the trade to start emerging from under the radar.

Hylton told the Financial Gleaner on the margins of the annual Cannabiz business conference, hosted by the National Alliance for the Legalisation of Ganja, that drafting instructions for the regulations had been issued to the chief parliamentary counsel and the process should be completed by the end of February.

The final set of regulations will be promulgated after further consultations, he said.

Those final regulations will cover cultivation, transporting, retail - inclusive of tea houses and therapeutic services - manufacturing and processing, and research, as well as export licensing. The idea is to regulate the sector from 'seed to sale'.

"Even as we put the framework in place, we have to do so recognising that we must have an inclusive industry from the very outset. This industry cannot be stratified and be sustained; the social implosion would be too great," Hylton declared at the conference.

"No administration can ignore the reality of the traditional growers and the persons who have been in the industry," he said, as a warning that market entrants need to be careful about sidelining small growers for whom the crop is economically important.

The Jamaican Government has already set up a Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) charged with developing and administering the framework that will govern a legitimate ganja industry.

The proposed interim regime will span six categories of licences: cultivator - which will cover nursery operations and allows the licensee to purchase seedlings, cultivate, harvest and dry ganja if granted a purchase contract; processor/manufacturer - for handling, storage, processing and manufacture of ganja and ganja products or extracts; transport - for transport between two licence holders; retail - which in the interim will cover therapeutic centres and tea houses; R&D; and import.

Hylton says that as the process evolves and ganja is commercialised, Jamaica can look for serious growth from the industry. He emphasised that the retail licences would specifically cater to operators at the community level.

"In combination, they will provide the basis on which Jamaica can commence the development of a legal brand of an industry that can provide access to markets giving better returns to traditional or new growers, as well as those who are processors," he said.

Hylton says he is aware that there are persons who would have wanted the Government to act more quickly in promulgating the regulations or 'freeing up' the industry totally but that he had to proceed carefully or risk chaos.

The Dangerous Drugs Act was amended in April 2015 with the CLA Board being appointed at the end of May. Since then, there have been a busy round of consultations and reporting which led to drafting instructions issued on January 25, 2016.

The two-day Cannabiz conference wrapped up on Thursday.